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Archive for June, 2007

Post-partisanship, indeed.

This comes courtesy of intrepid Tribune reporter Kelly Rayburn…

Few topics were off limits at a pre-Gay Pride Parade breakfast Sunday that brought a bevy of the city’s movers and shakers to the the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano had a suggestion on how Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Chris Daly might settle their long-running feud, which reached a head last week when Daly raised the allegation that Newsom had used cocaine. Newsom angrily denied ever taking the drug.

“In terms of gay pride,” Ammiano said, “I think that Newsom and Daly should show that they have pride and have make-up sex, don’t you?”

The crowd of about 300 burst into laughter.

The breakfast was organized by the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club. The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential hopeful John Edwards.

Newsom took the mic at one point, offering no comment Ammiano’s suggestion. Daly was not in attendance.

Posted on Sunday, June 24th, 2007
Under: Gavin Newsom | No Comments »

Dog drives man out of the closet

A press release from the Walnut Creek Police Department prompted those of us working in the newsroom today to wonder if modern criminals are just, well, dumber than they used to be.

The police report that just before 1 p.m. today — that’s broad daylight, folks — a 31-year-old unemployed guy waltzed into the backyard of a Walnut Creek house carrying a backpack. And he did it in full view of a neighbor, who knew the homeowners were away on vacation and he called the police.

The police arrive and find a back window had been removed and they could hear this guy banging around inside the house.

Busted, right? It wasn’t that easy.

Officers told the guy to come out.

He refused.

Officers and a police dog from Concord searched the house found him hiding in a closet. (Oooh, they’ll never find me here!)

They told the guy to come out.

He refused.

So, they sent the dog into the closet and the dog bit the guy in the arm.

He came out.

Posted on Saturday, June 23rd, 2007
Under: Quote of the Day | No Comments »

Dublin mayor looking at BART run

Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart, in an e-mail from China where she is visiting a sister city, confirmed that she is seriously considering a run for the BART board next year.

She lives in the district of incumbent Zoyd Luce, a man who unexpectedly beat prior BART Director and former Dublin Mayor Pete Snyder. Luce won largely due to support from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

At the time, Haggerty was furious with Snyder over what the supervisor considered the BART director’s negative attitude about a future BART extension to Livermore. Snyder had stated that there was no money for it. Ironically, Luce came to the same conclusion in his first year of office.

It’s unclear whether Luce will seek re-election. He has expressed interest in a second term although he has talked about other posts, as well.

Luce, a former BART employee who says he was forced out because he objected to the agency’s safety program, has been a controversial figure at the agency. Luce and retiring BART manager Tom Margo openly loathed each other. Luce’s BART board colleagues tried to temper his blunt language and encouraged him to find more productive means to promote what they considered good ideas.

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Transportation | No Comments »

Lawmakers demand ‘mothball fleet’ briefing

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are pressing the Bush Administration for a plan to make sure the “mothball fleet” that’s rusting out there in Suisun Bay isn’t releasing toxic materials into the water.

suisun-bay-reserve-fleet.jpg

In a letter sent today to the federal Maritime Administration — which maintains the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet and is responsible for its cleanup — the lawmakers asked for a briefing on the current state of the long-mothballed navy fleet and for an update on specific steps the Administration is taking. Our brethren at the Contra Costa Times revealed last Sunday that the administration received a report in February on possible environmental damage, but it’s unclear whether anything is being done about it.

“The beauty and the utility of the bay are two of our region’s greatest resources,” Tauscher said. “Because of this we need to be vigilant and take every step toward protecting it from present and future environmental hazards. The fact that the have been sitting on this report for months is infuriating. Bay Area citizens have the right to know the environmental impact of the mothball fleet which is why we are putting pressure on the Bush administration to let us know what, if any, plans they have to protect our Bay.”

Said Miller: “We recognize that this is a complicated situation but inaction is not a solution. We intend to keep the pressure on the administration to develop a plan that protects the environment and allows for these ships to be disposed of properly.”

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Ellen Tauscher, George Miller, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »

Bay Area mayors endorse Hillary

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke today to the 75th U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Los Angeles, and received the endorsements of 34 current and former California mayors. Among them: Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson; Dublin Mayor Janet Lockhart; Redwood City Mayor Barbara Pierce; Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman; Rohnert Park Mayor Vicki Vidak-Martinez; Cupertino Mayor Kris Wang; Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee; and Campbell Mayor Daniel Furtado.

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Elections, Hillary Clinton | No Comments »

Feds pinch 2003 recall candidate

roscoe.jpgNed Roscoe, president of the Cigarettes Cheaper chain and a candidate in the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy and bank fraud.

Roscoe, 46, and his father, company CEO John Roscoe, 76, co-owned the Benicia-based cigarette retail company. The indictment claims that between late 2002 and November 2003 — that’s right, while he was “running” for governor — the company was in dire straits and the Roscoes fraudulently inflated the company’s value in order to increase the amount they could borrow from Comerica Bank on a revolving line of credit. They allegedly misrepresented the company’s inventory in weekly reports to the bank, causing the bank to overextend about $10.6 million in loans. Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison.

The Roscoes were arraigned Thursday and released on bond; they’re scheduled to appear next July 9 before U.S. District Judge Roanld Whyte in San Jose.

Roscoe’s 2003 candidacy — “no new taxes,” “no stupid laws,” “get the work done,” “respect everyone,” and “earn respect for California,” his flier said — was endorsed by the state Libertarian Party; he got 2,250 votes and placed 34th in a field of 135 candidates. On election night, he said he’d won an ideological victory by succeeding in getting his message of less government across to voters. Before the election and since, he has been a staunch opponent of anti-smoking laws.

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Elections, General | No Comments »

Today’s Congressional odds and ends

miller.jpgCrossing the Miller Bridge: Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, this week introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 62, which would name the new northbound span of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge in honor of House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D- Martinez.
“This only begins to convey our gratitude for Congressman Miller’s years of service,” DeSaulnier said. “George has worked tirelessly for the people of Contra Costa, and this nation, for over three decades without seeking the spotlight.”
It’s also sorta poetic, as the bridge would link the Contra Costa County and Solano County portions of Miller’s district.
DeSaulnier notes that Miller, first elected to Congress in 1974, has authored key laws on environmental protection, energy policy, child care, mental health, aid to victims of domestic violence and numerous education reforms. And he’s been an advocate for Contra Costa County’s transportation needs as well, whether pushing for BART extensions or widening Highway 4.
“Many improvements in public transportation and infrastructure in my district could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of George Miller,” DeSaulnier said. “It was Congressman Miller who led the federal-state partnership that met the immense environmental and technical challenges associated with the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.”

mcnerneyportrait.jpgMcNerney to meet with VA secretary: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has scheduled a July 12 meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson to discuss the availability of services at the French Camp Outpatient Clinic and maintaining the current level of service at the Livermore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, plus the possibility of opening a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder clinic at Livermore.
McNerney had written to Nicholson last month asking for the meeting because he was concerned the Livermore hospital’s closure might be imminent. He sent a follow-up letter today outlining his concerns about PTSD in light of the Washington Post’s ongoing investigation of insufficient treatment.

eshoo.jpgLawmakers decry passport backlog: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and 42 other California House members wrote today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling for immediate action to eliminate the massive passport application backlog causing hardships for millions of U.S. travelers.
“Our passport system is in meltdown,” Eshoo said. “Despite having two years to prepare for its new security rule, the Bush Administration isn’t even close to being ready to enable Americans to secure the passports they need to comply. This is an urgent problem for Californians and Americans across the country who travel internationally for business and vacation, and it deserves an urgent response from the Administration.”
A new security rule requiring Americans to have passports to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean took effect on January 23rd, two years after it was first announced. Despite the long lead time, the U.S. State Department now has a backlog of 3 million passport applications, including 500,000 that were submitted over three months ago. Processing time has doubled from six weeks to three months. The State Department has temporarily relaxed the North American air rule until September 30th to let travelers fly from the United States with a valid government-issued photo I.D., such as a driver’s license, as well as proof of having applied for a passport.
Eshoo’s letter recommends opening more passport processing centers across the country and enabling “qualified travelers” to renew their passports on-line. Besides Eshoo, 27 other Democrats and 15 Republicans signed the letter. Local signatories included Miller and McNerney as well as Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, George Miller, Jerry McNerney, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | No Comments »

Contra Costa employee benefits fight on the horizon

Contra Costa County Tax Collector Bill Pollacek’s speech this morning at the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association’s monthly breakfast drew a crowd.

Not that Pollacek isn’t a scintillating speaker, if you like listening to the financial ruminations of an ex-banker. And he’s a favorite of the taxpayers’ group.

But that’s not why some folks showed up such Contra Costa County manager John Cullen or representatives from the offices of supervisors Susan Bonilla and Mary Piepho.

No question about it, they were checking up on Pollacek.

The tax collector has been a vocal critic of the county’s actions related to its $2.57 billion unfunded retiree health care liability. After considerable prodding from the Contra Costa County Grand Jury and others, the county has finally recognized it has a problem and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the first steps toward paying down the debt.

But a part of the solution could require concessions from the county’s labor unions in the form of a freeze or cuts to retiree health care benefits. In the absence of these reductions, the county could be forced to dramatically cut services and lay off up to a fifth of its 7,000-member workforce in order to fund retiree health care benefits.

Pollacek sat on the county ad-hoc committee that developed the recommendations for how to resolve the huge unfunded liability.

But Pollacek has repeatedly and publicly blamed excessive union influence for the passage of generous benefits over the past four decades and supervisors’ past unwillingness to cut them when it became clear the county could go broke trying to pay them.

County supervisors and managers, however, fear that harsh rhetoric from Pollacek or others could poison the county’s already tenuous relationships with its labor unions.

Cullen and board Chairwoman Mary Piepho, at a meeting with the Contra Costa Times editorial board earlier this afternoon, emphasized the need for labor cooperation in order to avert massive countywide service cuts that would cost people their jobs.

The county will get its first indication next Tuesday as to the unions’ stance on the matter, although their leaders’ public statements sometimes differ starkly from their language during closed-door negotiations.

The Board of Supervisors will discuss the issue at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the board’s chambers in Martinez. Click here for a link to the agenda.

I’d come early if you want a seat. This could be a packed house.

Posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2007
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Bill to name bridge after Miller introduced

Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, has introduced a bill to name the new Benicia-Martinez bridge after U.S. Rep. George Miller of Martinez. The existing span is named after Miller’s father.

“This only begins to convey our gratitude for Congressman Miller’s years of service,” DeSaulnier said. “George has worked tirelessly for the people of Contra Costa, and this nation, for over three decades without seeking the spotlight … It was Congressman Miller who led the federal-state partnership that met the immense environmental and technical challenges associated with the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.””

DeSaulnier will push for speedy approval of ACR 62 by the Legislature in order to have it complete in time for the opening ceremony, tentatively set for late August.

Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The governor is headed for Europe.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office has just announced he’ll travel to Europe this Sunday through Tuesday to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“I am pleased to fulfill my longstanding commitment to Prime Minister Blair by visiting him in Great Britain before he leaves office. Tony Blair is a worldwide leader in the fight against global warming and our partnership will help each government, Britain and California, succeed in our campaign,” the governor said in his news release.

Blair visited the state last July, meeting with Schwarzenegger on global climate change; they convened a meeting of CEOs and other business executives to discuss ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without slowing economic growth. They plan to hold another, similar meeting Tuesday in London before touring an energy-efficient school.

But first, the governor will meet Sarkozy on Monday at the Elysée Palace to discuss the French government’s success with public-private partnerships, opportunities to work together in the campaign against global warming, and increasing California trade with France, including the possibility of a 2008 trade mission.

Sarkozy “is an innovative leader with bold new ideas,” Schwarzenegger said in his release. “I am looking forward to meeting with the President and learning about his governing style which reaches across party lines to build consensus.”

So, maybe he’ll be Bloomberg’s Secretary of State

Posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger | No Comments »